Volume 47, Issue 5 (September 2002)
Review of: Ethics in Forensic Science: Professional Standards for the Practice of Criminalistics [A Volume in the Protocols in Forensic Science Series]
This seemingly modest tale of ethical codes, expertly woven by Peter Barnett, harks favorably to Jonathan Swift's “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents or Country.” Neither is modest in the relevant sense, and neither actually solves anything. With that point clearly in mind, the value of each, then, must lie elsewhere. Swift's tongue-in-cheek proposal to eliminate starvation by providing seductive menus for fricasseed children provides a remarkable exercise in satiric social commentary and argumentum ad absurdum. While Barnett wouldn't claim any such stylistic or satiric kudos, his book does represent a sustained effort to show that “the proper course of action is not always obvious, codes of ethics do not necessarily cover all contingencies, and not all professional standards are necessarily appropriate.” This might suggest to some an unintended ethical bleakness at least as dark as cannibalism itself.